• Food & Drink

    Şişhane lunch

    Every time I visit Şişhane there seems to be something new and worth checking out. Yesterday it was Gram, a swanky little bakery/eatery that’s been around for about two months, just opposite Da Vittorio, my favorite Italian restaurant in Istanbul. The design and the atmosphere of Gram make it a really appealing space — hats off to the architect and owners for creating such a reaxed yet intimate environment, with common tables, and the natural feel of wood, stone and brick. In particular, I liked the ceiling and lighting display featuring old scale weights as decoration.

  • Food & Drink

    The boat yard sandwich

    I’ve noticed lately that Turkish men are frighteningly adept with knives. Fortunately they seem to put their dexterity with razor sharp implements to good use. The man above is filleting bonito, a type of mackerel used for my favorite sandwich in the whole world — balik ekmek. In Istanbul, you can find these fish sandwiches in just about any seaside spot, especially by high traffic ferry ports. However, my favorite balik ekmek spot just happens to be close to home in the tersane (boat yard).

  • Food & Drink,  Places

    The organic market & gözleme

    This morning we returned to the Saturday Şişli Organik Pazarı in Bomonti for the first time in a while, and I was pleased to see that it was bustling with life. Turkey is fortunate to have such a great climate for produce, and the colors of the fruit and vegetables here were like something from a Cézanne painting. Perhaps it’s been a long while since I was last here, but it seems to me that there are more producers than before. The atmosphere was great, lots of people, families, and friends we hadn’t seen in a while. There’s wasn’t only food, either, there was everything from cosmetics, to children’s toys and textiles, all 100% certified organic. There was even some homegrown talent providing live music, though I’m not sure whether or not you can certify that organic or not. But let’s be honest, we were there for the food, which I’m…

  • Food & Drink

    Carving out hearts

    On street corners all across Turkey there are men like the one pictured above, brandishing razor sharp filleting knives, mercilessly carving out hearts and plunking them in a sloshing bucket at their feet. And do the authorities intervene? Absolutely not—because the innocent victims deserve it. They’re far too tasty, and far too healthy to go on living. Yes, that’s right, it’s artichoke season again. The artichoke is, in fact, a perennial form of thistle native to the southern Mediterranean and has been cultivated since ancient Greek times and was called Kaktos. They are packed with antioxidants and are especially potent in enhancing liver and gall bladder function—although perhaps not so much when turned into the Italian liqueur Cynar, produced by the Campari group. There are also artichoke teas which contain many of the beneficial effects of the vegetable. Personally, I prefer to eat them as an olive oil dish with a…

  • Food & Drink,  Mind / Body

    Something sweet

    In Turkey it’s not a lack of choice but an abundance of choice that’s the problem when it comes to sweets. I don’t think I know of a place with more varieties of dessert. Want something crispy, crusty and sweet like baklava? Or something cool and sweet like muhallebi? What’s your favorite? It all goes so well with tea.

  • Food & Drink

    Lokma

    There are many variations of lokma, loukoumades or lokmades—or deep fried sweet flour lumps, as I like to call them—in this region. After being boiled in oil these little dough balls are coated in syrup or honey, sometimes sprinkled with nuts or sesame, and then dusted with cinnamon. After seven years, I could no longer resist. Yes, I succumbed. These are the simpler kind without nuts or sesame. Crunchy crisp on the outside, warm and soft on the inside, I’m not quite sure what to make of them. The texture is definitely the appeal here, and could be habit-forming, which kind of scares me. I will now go and drink copious quantities of green tea to see if I can counter their deleterious effects and restore balance to my health ledger.

  • People

    Profile: Eko Zeyno

    Since last summer I’ve been looking into stories about what’s right, what’s wrong and what’s downright scary about Turkey’s food supply. When you become a parent you suddenly want to educate yourself about things you’ve never thought enough about in the past. One of the most interesting aspects of the story is the organic food industry and what’s holding it back when so much of the world no longer needs convincing as to its merits. Recently, I talked to Zeynep Çelen, the natural living (these are my terms) guest expert on Star TV’s Melek about the organic food scene and her take on what needs to be done if it’s to take root. If I were to derive a one-word response from her on the greatest obstacle to Turkey’s organic food movement, it would be: attitude. You’ve been quite vocal in social media countering negative opinions towards the organic foods movement. What’s the…

  • Photography,  Places

    A Dream Named Thessaloniki

    It has excited my imagination for some time, but I know very little about it. I know it’s Mustafa Kemal’s birthplace, but ironically not part of the great modern state he created. It’s often compared to Izmir. Its history, rich, significant … Greek, Roman, Ottoman, 20th century, Jewish. It’s a port city, Aegean, named after the princess born on the day of a great Macedonian victory. To hell with guidebooks. Wander. Get a vague sense of direction and then to let all five, or is it six, senses lead me. I don’t want anybody else to discover for me. Why not relinquish the burdensome anxiety that something will be missed without Fodor’s or Lonely Planet? Yes, I have expectations, but seeing how close one’s imagination stands up to reality is another pleasure. Thessaloniki … Salonika … Selanik? doesn’t disappoint. There are echoes of other port cities, Izmir, Beirut, common architectural details…

  • Food & Drink

    Istanbul Culinary Institute: inspiration is being served.

    MISO PRAWNS ON HUMMUS. There’s something about going to school that I really like these days. Perhaps because it’s because I didn’t properly appreciate the opportunities I had to learn when I was younger, but now I’m really eager to reconnect and engage with people in learning environments.One of my current favorites is the Istanbul Culinary Institute, which certifies chefs to go out into the world with all the requisite practical experience to set them on the road to becoming the next Gordon Ramsay (I just hope they are a tad less hot-headed). HOMEMADE CHARM: SAUCES, FRUIT COMPOSTS AND MORE TO TAKE WITH YOU. Personally, I admire good chefs the same way I admire good writers, painters or photographers. The talented ones are not simply making you something to eat, they’re preparing an experience that can stay with you for years. Sure it might be more fleeting, but the way we…

  • Food & Drink,  Places

    Karaköy Lokantasi: right atmosphere, right food.

    THE STAIRWAY TO CULINARY HEAVEN? MAYBE … Must admit I’m suffering from a bit of an addiction problem right now. If you follow this site regularly, you might notice I’m drifting a lot towards Karaköy these days. One of the reasons for this begins and ends with my stomach. AN INVITING, UNPRETENTIOUS ATMOSPHERE. All too often in Istanbul when you find great food you suffer from terrible atmosphere. The inverse is equally true unless you’re willing spend a lot of money. I’m not. That’s why Karaköy Lokantasi is something of a revelation. This is a serious eatery with seriously good food and a menu that changes daily. Its blue (a theme color of mine at the moment) tiled walls and crisp white tablecloths are chic yet unpretentious. If you desire, you can enjoy a glass of wine with lunch and expect to pay little more than $20 (US), quite possibly less.